John 9:

1 As he went along, he saw a man [B1] blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Jesus declared that the B1's blindness wasn't due to his sins or his parents' sins.

At first, the Pharisees didn't believe that he was born blind.

18They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19“Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind.

Later, the Pharisees rebuked B1:

34To this they [Pharisees] replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Did the Pharisees contradict Jesus' explanation about why B1 was born blind? Whose explanation was right in general, for anyone who was born blind: Jesus', Pharisees', or neither?


4 Answers 4


Jesus is always right, Tony! There is however, ample evidence in the Bible that sickness can be a result of sin. In fact, you could argue that sickness came into the world through sin. The OT makes the sin/sickness connection clear so it wasn't invented by the Pharisees say, to control people. Here are a few examples.

Exo. 15:26 And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.”

Psalm 38:3 3There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin.

Zeph 1:17 17I will bring distress on men So that they will walk like the blind, Because they have sinned against the LORD;...

Jesus himself made the connection clear in his warning to the paralytic who was healed.

John 5:14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

But Jesus clearly tells us in this story that this particular man was born blind not because of his parents' sin and certainly not his own, but so that the works of God could be displayed. As the old hymn poetically articulates,

"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform".

Healing the blind was part of the confirmation of his Messianic ministry, for example.

So, just because Jesus disavows the connection between sin and sickness in this particular case, doesn't mean that often there isn't one that may be quite common. Yet another good reason to be on guard against sin! :)


The following passage shows that the Pharisees thought illness was punishment as the result of sin. However, John 9 shows Jesus did not believe that. However, he used the Pharisee's belief to show he could forgive sin.

And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.” (Luke 5:20–26, ESV)

From John 9:1 apparently Jesus' disciples believed this, but Jesus taught them otherwise. Someone being born blind was a particular problem when it came to punishment for sin. However, John included this miracle because:

Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. (John 9:32, ESV)

as well as:

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5, ESV)

Yes, the Pharisees contradicted Jesus by holding to there beliefs:

ἐν ἁμαρτίαις σὺ ἐγεννήθης (in John 9:34, NA28) "you became in sin"

While the blind man's statement supported Jesus':

The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:30–33, ESV)

Jesus' statement supported:

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:3, ESV)

The Pharisees would not deny that the blind man's healing was from God, they contradicted Jesus' purpose in the miracle:

Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” (John 9:24, ESV)

We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” (John 9:29, ESV)

John 9 concludes with is irony in Jesus' statement. Physical blindness isn't the result of sin, but spiritual blindness is.

 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:39–41, ESV)

This was especially ironic because it was the spiritual leaders that were bind.

Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:10–12, ESV)

  • Good answer and up voted. It made me think after the cross the glorified Jesus Christ blinded Saul with His presence. Three days later when his eyes were opened he then know who Jesus Christ was.
    – Sherrie
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 18:00

To understand this story in John 9 requires some contextual foundation. That is, you need some prior knowing. Let’s look at this, because this will answer your Q “Whose explanation was right in general”.

The Pharisees were using their oral tradition as the basis for their claim. I have detailed this elsewhere in another answer on this passage, but in summary, they believed, according to their traditions, that only God blessed, so the only way this boy could be born blind was ‘sin’. And here Jesus essentially told them that (once again) their traditions were blocking them from knowing the truth.

MARK 7:13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.

In light of Romans 3:23, it is certain that both this man and his parents were sinners. We all have! So this blindness was obviouslynot the result of ‘sin’. The oral traditions have some foundation and validation, however in terms of ‘signs of the Messiah’ there is arguably distortion. Example Daniels prophecies.

Now let’s look at Jesus’s response. To understand this “but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3). This - opening the eyes of a person born blind - was a specific Messianic ‘sign’, one that was prophesied, one that only the Messiah would be able to perform. (Isaiah 35).


There is more than one way that can account for the link between blindness and sin: one is that blindness is the natural consequence of sin (like how speeding can directly cause a car crash), another is that blindness is God’s punishment for sin.

Since the man was blind from birth, one can conclude that the Pharisees did not see his blindness as a natural consequence of any wrongdoing on his part or that of his parents. What the Pharisees were insinuating then is that his blindness was a punishment for sin, likely the sin of his parents.

  • “You were born entirely in sins, and yet you are teaching us?” – Jn 9:34

While Jesus did not categorically refute the idea that sin can lead to negative consequences, his words in this passage and elsewhere in the text do not support the theory that disability and other human misfortune are punishments imposed by God for sin. On the contrary, the things that Jesus taught, the healings that he performed, and the compassion that he showed testify to God’s special care and concern for the poor and afflicted.

  • “But whenever you give a banquet, invite people who are poor, who have disabilities, who are limping, and people who are blind; 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – In Luke 14:13-14

  • Remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.’” – Luke 16:25

  • And large crowds came to Him bringing with them those who were limping, had impaired limbs, were blind, or were unable to speak, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. – Mt 15:30

  • And a man with leprosy came to Jesus, imploring Him and kneeling down, and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out with His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” – Mk 1:40-41

Jesus said that the purpose of the man’s blindness was “so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” If the Pharisees were not so blind, perhaps they would have seen what God had worked through the man’s blindness. As a final thought, Jesus’ words remind me of something Jean Vanier once said about the mentally disabled people in the communities that he helped to establish:

And I come here to tell you how much life these people have given me, that they have an incredible gift to bring to our world, that they are a source of hope, peace, and perhaps salvation for our wounded world, and that if we are open to them, if we welcome them, they give us life and lead us to Jesus and the good news. – Jean Varnier, From Brokenness to Community